Art, the arts and natural remedies

The opening set by my friend Mister Joe Black on the 8th September reminded me, as if I could ever forget, how talented some of my friends are. Joe, with his bright, fire engine red hair and garish, glittery make-up, was a gem, even in the face of a Duke Special audience. He’s more used to an audience of freaks and weirdos, so the very fact he could charm the pants off everyone in the audience that evening is testament to his professionalism and indeed to his sweet character.

Including songs such as ‘Soon I’m a Spinster’ and ‘No Butts’, he also performed a bastardised version of Radiohead’s iconic ‘Creep’. I’d wanted to see him do this since I found it on YouTube, and for this, he got down into the crowd and volunteered someone to hold him up while he sang. Now, a decent enough sized bloke should be plenty strong enough to hold Joe, as he’s not very big, but after a few bars, the guy complained it was hurting his back, so Joe asked for more volunteers. A woman next to him piped up, ‘I’ll do it!’ She could hardly contain herself, which does illustrate rather well Joe’s effect on the female populace in general. In the end, two people held him up until he finally got uncomfortable and went back to the stage.

There was some audience participation, and a song I hadn’t heard him do for a while, the Tiger Lilies’ ‘Start a Fire’ (loads of fun) as well as Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’, for which he has become something of a YouTube star. He didn’t grab anyone for this one, that evening, for whatever reason, but he still made it funny and later on I told Joe that it was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen him do.

My friend Kala has blogged about her latest creations, necklaces made from bike sprockets, here. If anyone could make a bike sprocket look cool dangling from a chain, it’s her, so do buy one from her if you like them.

Other kinds of art are perhaps not what you’d think of immediately. Natural arts, the kind once considered dark magick. I have a cold at the moment, a bad throat and a heady feeling, making me feel woozy and a bit useless. Instead of generic honey and lemon drinks that have paracetamol in them (not that I’m knocking these, obviously), I’ve been making drinks with fresh lemons and local honey, full of the minerals and vitamins that both of these things are naturally full of. As I write, I have a mug that contains some honey as well as some generous chunks of fresh root ginger. It’s not hard to do these things. The ancestors used to do them all the time. Some of those ancestors were probably burned as witches back in the seventeenth century, and this is partly my two-finger salute to the religious bigots who murdered them, but it’s mostly because I don’t like the idea of plying myself with harmful chemicals that have been tested in a laboratory on defenceless animals. No need to test a lemon on a rabbit. I will do everything I can to avoid being a part of that culture, as I have always been pro-animals. We as human beings are primates, after all, along with chimps, orang utans, lemurs and marmosets. Just because we speak and walk upright doesn’t make us superior (at least, not in my eyes), so it’s surely our duty to ensure they don’t suffer any more than they have to.

This leads me neatly into the trip to Monkey World on Friday. I often go with my parents, as it’s somewhere we all love, but they hadn’t been for three months and I hadn’t been for at least six and probably more. Stand-out things for me: Hsiao-ning, an eight-year-old orang, copped a strop and was blowing raspberries at the others, and at the keepers who were trying to get her to come down from the high pole (which she was whacking in temper) and get an ice lolly. After they’d finally given up and left, I called her name. She looked round, glared at me and then turned away again. I laughed, which is not the reaction I guess she would have wanted, had she heard me. In the end, and only when she wanted to, she climbed down, found an ice lolly little boy Kai had left (rather carelessly) and stole it. His face when he came back for it was priceless, but it seems there was still some left for him after all. The other highlight was a game of hide-and-seek with young chimp Bryan. He was the only one in the nursery (everyone else was outside) and he kept looking at me and running to the next window. A couple of other people were there and one woman said, ‘He was looking for you!’ as I’d stayed where I was instead of following him to the next window. True enough, next time I did it, I watched him and he stood waiting for me – until I moved, and then he shot off again. I believe it helps that they’ve seen me many times before and recognise me, but whatever the reason, I love these moments at Monkey World. It’s something that couldn’t happen at many other places, due to the very nature of the park. The apes and monkeys are encouraged to behave naturally, with enriched enclosures, bedrooms and specialised diets… they’re never bored. The keepers even have world-renowned success in breeding critically endangered woolly monkeys, which (if you have any idea how hard this is) is a phenomenal achievement.

I won’t leave it so long before going again.

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